Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Job Jar

Thrifty Thursday

Yesterday, I held an emergency house cleaning day. After getting hit with three rounds of sickness over the holidays, it is putting it mildly to say that my house was a mess.

I hate to let things get out-of-control because I then have to fight that where-do-I-start mindset. When I look around and see all that needs to be done, I feel overwhelmed. I get that one-foot-nailed-to-the-floor sensation and just don't know where to start.

I have to admit that I have always approached those times with an individualist's mind-set. I send the boys to do some independent school work and then allow them to play while I tackle the mess all alone. In part I have always done it that way because the boys were too little to do many of the tasks. They could only reach so high, couldn't be trusted with cleaning products and couldn't maneuver equipment like the vacuum cleaner. But, they're big boys now, so I decided that it was time for a new approach.

The day started with a family meeting in the living room. I explained to them that most of the time, I am pleased with how the house looks and with how they complete their regular chores. However, when a season comes like what we experienced over the past three weeks (holidays, travel, sickness, sickness and more sickness), we all neglect many of our chores and we all suffer the consequence of a messy house.

This is when I pulled out the "job jar". In this jar, I had placed over fifty index cards. On each card I had written a very specific chore to complete (i.e. dust the computer desk, clean the bath sink, and vacuum the hallway). I had also assigned each job an amount of money that could be earned for properly completing the task. Some jobs were valued at a penny; others at twenty-five cents; most somewhere in between. I told them that in a crisis situation, I would call for "all hands on deck," and everyone, including me, would have to draw a job from the jar and complete it.

It made the work fun. Each of us wondered which job he or she would get next. The boys wanted to complete each task quickly. They did not want to let me pull more jobs from the jar than they did and lose that money. However, I did check each job as it was completed and approved the work before allowing the worker to move to a new task. I did not want him to rush through the work so quickly that the work was done poorly. There were less complaints than usual, too. If someone did complain about a job, I deducted 10% from that job's value. I only had to do that once. I didn't have to wonder where to start either. The cards guided us through the entire cleaning process.

This worked so well that I am going to take out the cards that assign what I would call "deep cleaning" jobs- the things that need to be done once per month. I will keep in the things that need to be done weekly. Each day, we are going to have a job jar time in which we each pull out 2-4 jobs and complete them. On the Monday of the last full week of a month, I will return the "deep clean" cards and we will tackle a few more chores each day that week.

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Kim who suggested this at our most recent homeschool association meeting. This was a good one, Kim. I appreciate it! I hope my readers will, too.


  • For larger families, use colored index cards. Write tasks for teens on one color, middle-aged children on second color, and littles on a third color. Place them all in the same jar but instruct children to draw only the cards of their particular color.

  • Glue a picture symbol for each task on its coresponding card for non-readers.

  • Create an Outdoor Job Jar. Include tasks such as wash the dog, sweep the walkway and fill the bird feeders.

  • Any other ideas? Feel free to leave a comment!


Molly said...

I needed this post tonight....found it with the search box :-) Thanks!!!

Molly said...

I'm glad you put the color-coding idea on there. This will really help me. Tomorrow is supposed to be our next-to-the-last day of school! But we have 3 different groups of guests arriving for Easter, two groups coming tomorrow! So we will be taking a day off to clean, and finishing up school next week.

Heading off to find some color coded index cards!